Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Howlers - Massacre Mountain!

The third issue of Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos hit the stands the same month that the Avengers and the X-Men debuted from Marvel.  And like those two comics, especially the former it pointed to greater sense of internal continuity between titles, the nascent elements of what we now call the Marvel Universe. The action-filled cover is the best yet, though all have been strong.

The story begins when the Howlers intercept a Nazi attack squad on the shores of Dover. After defeating this threat they get a mission to come to the aid of a group of soldiers pinned down in the shadow of Massacre Mountain in Europe. To find this location they first must hook up with an O.S.S. operative who turns out to be Reed Richards, not yet leader of the Fantastic Four. Also picking up a news crew who tag along, the Howlers are frustrated in their attempts to attack the Nazi forces surrounding Massacre Mountain when it seems the enemy is always ready for them. They eventually uncover the spy among them and find the trapped U.S. forces. Blowing a hole in the mountain they rush out of the Nazi trap and defeat the enemy forces in a spectacular show of force. While the other soldiers get medals, the Howlers are left to their own devices.

(Reinterpretation of a great Kirby cover by John Severin though Pinky was not yet a Howler.)
This was a nifty adventure with plenty of twists and turns, if not real surprises. The pacing of these stories is excellent with enough attention paid to the Howlers themselves though of course Nick Fury dominates the scenes. The inclusion of Reed Richards was a savvy move by Lee and Kirby and draws the distant war adventures of Fury and his team into the Marvel Universe, a thing still under construction. Since fans of the FF are apt to be following this comic too, I'm sure it was a pleasant surprise. The art by Kirby and Ayers is great, but to my eye the art is about to bet even better.

One neat moment comes when other soldiers comment on the way the Howlers look, that is not particularly uniform you might say. That aspect of the team, making each visually distinctive is a key to the success of this comic, a real challenge for a military book like this where the subjects are supposed to look the same. I saw some stuff on the early days of Seal Team Six and much was made of the way they were prompted to have different hairstyles, facial hair and physical details like tattoos and such, so that they didn't immediately appear regulation military and could blend into locations they might need to infiltrate. They also appeared to have a thing for hard drinking as a core concept. And there was a mild cult of personality of a leader Richard Marcinko who seems to have been something of a real-life Nick Fury, an iconoclast of sorts, and like Fury runs afoul of the authorities.

More to come next week, as Fury finds his way into enemy territory once again, as well as a bit of romance.

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